Arsenal and Tottenham – Stadium comparisons/issues
Arsenal and Spurs, with the opening of Tottenham’s new ground, will have some inevitable comparisons in their grounds’ financing and operations.
Both us and them have built grounds for the same reasons – to provide a footing to compete at the highest levels. And revenue is all in modern football. More money means more tools to buy the best players.
So whilst comparisons are fine (as we’re rivals/enemies) I cannot see it totally matching up.
There are some points that are relevant, but others that won’t be.
I feel some fans would like to see them suffer due to their ground burdens (some is perhaps too weak a term, let’s say many). But there will be different factors between us and them which will impact us.
In short, the climate of the mid to late 2000s is different to the late 2010s.
When we moved in, we restructured our debts to pay £25m per season to cover the debts.
We haven’t finished paying this off, and will have another 10-15 years in doing such.
But in the early years, it was a hindrance, and the pressure to get consistent Champions League football was on.
This helped boost our revenues, and ensured we had the monies to manoeuvre around this obligation.
For them, due to the delays and the fall of the pound due to Brexit, Spurs have had to pay more than the initially outlined figure of £400m. Some reports have said it’s a £1bn, though the club hierarchy has denied this. They have said it’s roughly £650m, though the exact figure hasn’t been released.
They too will pay this off over the long-haul like we are, and will need all the revenues they can get in this capacity.
A good analogy is that of a mortgage. It has to be paid back, and then a person must have the scope to get money in to pay it off as a major expense. If a person loses his or her job, then it makes paying the mortgage more difficult. The same is true of a long-term loan for a business, which both us and them have with our grounds. Spurs’ higher fee will mean they need to re-budget accordingly, and that’s less money than required for signings or other means.
The difference here is that we don’t need to re-plan, since our ground was on time and on budget. As their’s wasn’t, it shows the importance of strong project management in any case.
Revenues and competition
Our revenues had a strong boost when we moved in, and theirs will too.
They are yet to have their ground sponsored and the NFL leasing would help them also.
I expect match-day revenues between us and them will be similar in years to come, and it will only be TV revenues or commercial monies that will differ. The most recent Deloitte Money League report showed them only £10m less than us in revenues, in part due to being the Champions League, finishing higher than us in the league, and having a share of Wembley gate receipts. For this current season, it’s possible they may surpass us in revenue terms, given similar factors.
However, a difference between us and them is that in 2006, there was far less intensive competition for the Champions League places. We were challenged by Aston Villa and even them for a few seasons, but we had the players and quality to get in the top four.
Now, it’s a big-six, and all of them have similar revenues. It can be argued that in terms of attracting players, the other top five have advantages in getting players. All have attained major successes in PL history, whilst Spurs haven’t. Yes, money and prospects can attract, but nobody can deny that name doesn’t either. Our name in world football is still bigger than theirs, and United, City, Chelsea, and Liverpool, can all point to the same based on what they’ve achieved. We still have pull in France due to Wenger and Henry, or Vieira, whilst they don’t. Yes, Lloris won the World Cup, but Spurs isn’t anywhere near as ingrained in French footballing culture as we are there.
So we could manage the tight financial structure imposed on us, given that top four was a shoo-in. And this isn’t being arrogant in hindsight – we had some very good players that ensured we got top four. Who could have doubted Cesc, RvP, Adebayor, Rosicky, Hleb, and Arshavin as top-level players? Cesc wouldn’t have been sought by Barca, nor RvP by Sir Alex Ferguson, if they were crap.
Granted, Spurs have many good players. But the competition would make it difficult, and more so than us. Bar United, Chelsea, and Liverpool, we were due top four from 2006 to 2013, until City became a regular and consistent force.
Kane, Alli, Eriksen, Son, etc. are all top-level too. Though I believe they have more to balance than we did, or do.
All of the English top six hold similar resources. Manchester United, followed by Man City, are out in front. Though Liverpool, ourselves, Chelsea and Spurs are closely ranked in revenue terms. This is something we didn’t really face when we were moving in, and it makes our move and theirs potentially more problematic for them.
So whilst there are some comparisons between our ground and theirs, they don’t match totally.
Another point is the PL TV deal, and Spurs could even get in the Europa League and still get a decent slice of the revenue cake. However, if the other top six get CL football, then this in turn will lessen Spurs’s capacity to get top players.
When we moved into our ground, many of the Invincibles were retiring or moving on. Henry left in 2007, whilst Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, and Gilberto were all moved on or were coming to the end of their tenures. Only Lehmann remained, but even he was soon replaced by Almunia. So we were in an inevitable transition, though needed to move ground since the footballing tide was turning. With Chelsea spending big then, and Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson in their pomp, it was inevitable we would be muted. This is why Arsene Wenger often signed youth talent then, including the likes of Bendtner, Denilson, and Djourou.
Tottenham on the other hand are at their peak. Unlike us when we were settling, they have some of their best players in generations. And this isn’t being facetious due to rivalry – it’s a fact. Kane is their best striker since Lineker and Greaves. And Pochettino is their best manager, in terms of consistent league performances, since Burtenshaw or David Pleat. And they both managed Spurs decades ago.
With many good players, what Spurs need is a boss-level player to take them to the next level. And this won’t come cheap. Spurs cannot afford £100m or more, and with top remuneration, to get this echelon of player. There is talk of Gareth Bale going back, but at this point, even though Bale is 30, they couldn’t afford his remuneration demands.
So whilst we were in transition when moving, they are peaking, and this will factor possibly more in their capacity to compete.
The next few seasons then is a balance in sustaining top four, keeping their top players, and ensuring they can handle the more intense competition than we faced in 2006.
It didn’t matter for us, in critical terms, if Denilson didn’t work out. But then even if some of their top players left, this may not be enough to replace them. If Son left, or Eriksen, then they couldn’t afford £100m or so to replace them off the bat. Son for one has emerged as a prime world-class talent.
This in my mind is the principal difference, and with us reforming on and off the pitch, and United looking to improve too, this could be trouble for Spurs. Chelsea, despite issues with Sarri and their transfer ban, won’t be rubbish forever. They may follow our lead and reform internally, and perhaps Abramovich will build their new ground accordingly.
So it will be interesting times for both us and them in the coming seasons. But the comparisons between our ground and theirs have similarities, but they cannot be exact.
They will look to our lead in terms of how we handled our move, but then as they are at a historical peak on the pitch and it’s a more complex balancing act for them.
I believe both us and them could be in the balance for top four, or the domestic cups. But if we rebound in coming seasons, based on a new on the pitch attitude and better internal structure, they could get left behind if they are not getting the players they need to move on. They could be in our position, in that the Europa League is another option for Champions league football. Perhaps then, their manager can win proper trophies, and not just individual awards.
Pochettino has said that top four is a trophy – and it be more so considering they need all the money they can get. Despite years of mocking us for a corporately-named ground (which is the norm in many countries and many English clubs not just us) they too are entering that club. But Wenger who coined the phrase actually won true trophies in the “top four is best” era. We’ll see if Mr. Poch can win more than individual awards in the near future, since his club will need the additional revenues to balance their heightened debts.